A few weeks ago, I was having a heart to heart with a friend. Both of us were kind of feeling lost and just a little bit down. We both looked at each other and thought to ourselves that the other one had it all together.
But really, we both felt like we were floundering. I started rattling off every reason why I thought she had it all together. Breathlessly I was listing off everything from her confidence during public speaking to her amazing travels to her career prospects. Exasperated, she said, “Carly! You never fail!”
I was honestly shocked. I fail all the time. I move super fast and I make decisions and I fail. I’m probably my worst critic when it comes to my failures, often just running through my head everything I could have done differently… all the mistakes. Sometimes they sit more heavily on me than other times, but that lingering sense of failure sits with me almost all the time.
So here I am really and truly not understanding how she couldn’t see what I see every day. And then not even a full day later a friend across the country texted me saying that it seemed like I had my life completely together… meanwhile, I still feel like I’m running like a hamster on a wheel trying to keep everything moving and living my dreams.
Then I started thinking about it. Other than the thoughts in my head, I guess I hadn’t really been sharing my failures publicly. Part of this is that I tend to just move on really quickly. And the other part is that even though part of me labels it a “failure,” I really just plow through it and use it to redirect or refocus my attention. (While drafting this post, I realized how hypocritical I was being towards myself about these so-called failures since I really don’t treat them like failures except for how I internally talk to myself. Officially beginning to work on that now…)

Growing up, I was completely adverse to failing. Often this meant that I would avoid certain things because I was afraid of failing. I would have rather missed an opportunity of success than deal with a potential failure. And then I seriously failed. It wasn’t a quick recovery (blogging helped!), but it did open up a whole new world for me. Basically, I realized I had only been living a fraction of the life I could have.
People notice success and often overlook failures (or they don’t even register that something is a failure). In my experience, very few people focus on the failures of others. (And, again in my experience, those that do focus on others’ failures are often the ones who don’t really get after their own lives and potential successes.) We write novels about successful people, highlighting trials and tribulations to make their success stand out more or to give reasons for why the failures pushed them forward closer to their success.
Failure is kind of inevitable, but it’s absolutely vital for the sweetness of success to truly be tasted.
I have a couple of “rules” about failures that I implement for myself:
1) Redefine failure. I make sure that I set myself up for success from the beginning. I believe that even the worst case scenario is still the right scenario.
2) Don’t let the fear of failure prevent you from trying. Otherwise you’ll miss the opportunities for success altogether.
3) Be smart about it. Just because you’ve come to terms with it being okay if you fail, still be smart and set yourself up in a way where you’re pointing towards success.
4) Bulldoze or maneuver. I do a quick analysis to determine whether I should completely move past it (bulldoze) or use what I learned to reposition myself (maneuver). Failures can be your guiding light on your way to success!
5) Focus on what you learned and don’t get hung up on the failing part. Whoops… this would be my new rule 😉
I’m not afraid to fail and I often redefine my failures into experiences. So maybe that’s what my two friends were picking up on. I say, face every single opportunity head on and don’t let the fear of failure stop you from living your dreams.
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Carly, I love this post! I know exactly how you feel. My friends always say I have everything together, but the truth is I really don't. It seems that there are always things that go awry, however I think that it is always best to look back on those things as an experience! It is the effort you put into something that counts, even if it doesn't work 🙂

Prep on a Budget

Julia D.

Love that Winston Churchill quote. With grad school application deadlines just around the corner, I really needed this today. Thanks Carly!

Julia Jean Kennedy

This reminds me of something I often have to tell myself… Everyone always puts their own PR spin on their life, whether on social media or in real life. No matter how together someone's life looks – most of the time, they're probably going through the same (or similar!) things as you are! Keep your head up, things will look up. 🙂

Jessica Joyce

I think the reason why most of us think that you have "everything together" is because that's how you portray yourself, which is such a positive thing. I was raised to believe that how I present myself meant a lot, and if you say that you're surprised by what people think of you, you're doing an awesome job.
I was always told that success is like a horizon, in that you see it but you never reach it. We always want more out of life, even more than what we have, as you mentioned in a previous post. As for a young writer like myself, getting told "no" just means that I'm getting closer to a "yes."
Thanks for the inspirational boost, Carly!

Your Friend, Jess

Cristina Marie

This post was literally amazing/crazy to read because for the past couple of months, I've been confronting my problem with a fear of failing. I, too, will avoid things and not attempt them because I would rather miss out than to do it wrong and be criticized. I'm definitely going to attempt to use your tips on getting over this fear of mine! Thank you so much!

Cristina Marie


I am really interested in were what kinds of stumbling blocks you’ve encountered, and how you handled them. As a successful person, you’ve clearly found a way to get over or maneuver around setbacks very well. The advice was okay, but an example of that advice in practice would be much more helpful. Just a thought in case you decide to revisit the topic!


I love the “bulldoze” or “maneuver” rule! I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot in my own life recently with a job shift & starting my own business! It’s really important to know which it is & that often takes reflection, which takes time. It can be hard to even find the time to stop sometimes & do this, & sometimes you need someone else to reflect with you! Thanks for sharing your perspective on “failure” and how we can use it to be more resilient.